Pep Guardiola’s short time in English football has been somewhat tumultuous. His start as manager of Manchester City was a strong one. Winning 18 points from a possible 18 in his first 6 matches of the Premier League season, things were looking promising for the former FC Barcelona and FC Bayern coach. However, following a 3-3 draw with Celtic in the Champions League in September and a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham in the Premier League the following week, there were many who felt things were starting to unravel for Pep. Fast forward three months and the Citizens have dropped to third in the table, having lost 3 and drawn 3 out of their first 18 fixtures of the season.
Faltering and inconsistent performances have left many wondering what all the fuss was about when Pep signed on at City back in August of 2016 and his side look like they may struggle to keep up with Chelsea and Liverpool, who sit in first and second in the table above them. A mouthwatering tie against Jurgen Klopp’s highflying Reds side awaits at Anfield on New Year’s Eve and it’s already one that’s expected to have a huge bearing on the Premier League trophy’s final destination in May.
Pep’s Man City side have faltered in recent months after a promising start to the season.
I, for one, am a disciple of Pep. There is no other way to describe it. I have followed his rise through the managerial ranks closely since his appointment as first team coach at FC Barcelona in 2008. Watching him craft what many consider to be the greatest club side of all time is one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had as a football fan – and one I know I’ll be able to tell the grandkids about. I can already see myself in the same position as those who have gone before me. “You think this team is good?” I’ll say, “You should’ve seen Messi, Xavi and Iniesta playing for Barcelona. Now THAT was football team!”.
Despite being a close follower (and serious admirer) of Guardiola throughout that time, I felt there was so much more to know. He held a mystique about him that seemed impenetrable. Whatever he gave away, you knew it was only given because he wanted it to be – and that you wouldn’t get to understand any more about him or the ways in which he worked unless he saw fit.
Pep has always been a mysterious and intriguing character.
In an effort to better understand the man who won 14 out of 19 trophies in 4 years at Barça (15 if you count his title win at Barça B), I couldn’t wait to read Guillem Balague’s biography of the great man, titled Pep Guardiola: Another Way of Winning. Originally published in 2012, it expertly chronicles Pep’s rise at his boyhood club, from humble beginnings in the Catalan town of Santpedor, through the playing and coaching ranks, to manager of the club. His four years at the helm are charted in pain-staking detail, with extracts from interviews with numerous important figures in the world of football, including Pep himself, players Leo Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and Carles Puoyl and from Pep’s coaching rivals including, most notably, Sir Alex Ferguson, Luiz Aragones and Jose Mourinho.
For anyone who is a regular viewer of Sky Sports’ Revista De La Liga, you’ll be familiar with author Guillem Balague. A respected Spanish football journalist, whose work is renowned throughout Europe, he is known for his incredible knowledge of Spanish football, as well as his ability to consider and explain the complexities of the game with clarity and authority. This is a skill he appears as comfortable putting into practice on paper as in the studio. Whether he’s discussing the tactical side of Pep’s coaching, the political struggles faced as manager of Barça or describing the more psychological difficulties faced by a coach, Balague does this with a mastery and transparency that is rare amongst writers in his field.
To use a well-worn cliche, this is a book that is hard to put down once opened. It’s an absolutely essential read for any fan of Pep Guardiola or, indeed, anyone with any interest in football. Guardiola is, for me, the greatest manager of his generation and a man who, I think, could go on to become one of the most influential individuals in the history of football. With Another Way of Winning, Guillem Balague gives us an insight into what has shaped the mind of a football revolutionary. To read this book is to better understand a complex and endlessly fascinating character, strengths and weaknesses considered in equal measure. If, like me, you are a disciple of Pep, reading this book will only strengthen your admiration for him. If not, then at least you’ll have spent a few thoroughly engaging hours furthering your football knowledge – and what could be more fun than that?